DIMAPUR, FEBRUARY 21 (MExN): The Nagaland Joint Christian Forum (NJCF) has disparaged the BJP and the Congress for what it termed as using the Holy Land, which has religious connotation, to entice voters in order to win their sympathy.
The Forum in a press statement issued through its vice president Rev. Dr. N. Paphino took into account that the two political parties have included Holy Land tour in their manifestos-with the BJP stating that it will “set up senior citizen board who will annually select around 50 members through lucky draw for a free trip to Holy Land of Jerusalem.
The Congress in their manifesto states, “By an act of the State Government, a board will be established to facilitate minorities to visit the Holy Land (Jerusalem) at a subsidized cost.”
While the concern for senior citizens in both the manifestos are well taken, the Forum however felt that using Holy Land which has religious connotation should not be used to entice voters. It enlightened that pilgrimage and tourism are two different things- pilgrimage is personal and spiritual where as tourism is purely leisure and secular.
Moreover, with India being a secular country, the Forum said it does not expect any political party to use religious sentiment to further one’s political interest, “Rather we will expect that whichever party comes to power to judiciously use public fund for good cause and leave religious pilgrimage and tourism to individuals.”
Further, it maintained that Christians in Nagaland cannot and should not expect such personalized scheme just because Nagaland is a Christian majority state. “We remember well that the central government has stopped the haj subsidy to the Muslims for their yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. Whatever the reason maybe, if such is stopped for those who have enjoyed the facility for years, why should we think it should be passed on to us?”
To the BJP, the Forum stated that the party coming to Nagaland during election doesn’t mean it can play with the sentiment of the Christians. Rather, it advised that the party should declare that “Christians in the mainland India will not be targeted and persecuted, and their worship places will not be destroyed from henceforth without expanding how much Christian missionaries have contributed to the country because we know that too well.”
For the NPCC, the Forum said its offer fall short of secularism in Christian majority state while pointing out that there are other more important issues the party should be addressing specifically.
To both the party, instead of the Holy Land tour, the Forum has advised that they develop a comprehensive program for senior citizens and minorities without leaving anyone out. As for the Christians, the Forum opined that while it is not wrong to visit the Holy Land, it will be futile to do so as a facility offered at the expense of others.
It has therefore advised the two political parties to “leave Holy Land tour to personal and private domain.”